Ain't Nobody's Business If You Do
A CLOSER LOOK AT THE CONSENSUAL CRIMES
AND PSYCHOLOGICALLY THERAPEUTIC USE OF DRUGS
I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.
- LONG, LONG BEFORE the white man traveled on hempen sails to find religious freedom in a New World, the natives on a land now called North America used sacramental plants to commune with nature, the universal brotherhood, and the Great Spirit.
- The Incas chewed coca leaves, but only for spiritual purposes and only with the permission of their spiritual leader, the Inca. The conquistadors from Spain turned what was once a sacrament into a reward for work and, later, a stimulant for the energy to do more work. Changing the purpose and use of coca leaves was but one part of the European destruction of a great civilization.
- Indigenous tribes throughout North America ate the buds of the peyote cactus as an expression of thanksgiving, a request for guidance, or in support of a brother who wanted to give thanks or seek direction. Peyote was always used in a formal, ceremonial way, and "recreational" use was considered a sacrilege. It took the white manwho knew or cared so little about the Native American wayuntil 1899 to find out what was going on and, of course, make it illegal. Oklahoma passed a law against peyote in 1899; New Mexico outlawed it in 1929. Not until the 1960s, when a sufficient number of white people began seeking mystical experience, was peyote considered "a menace" that had to be controlled nationally.
We are not clear as to the role in life of these chemicals; nor are we clear as to the role of the physician. You know, of course, that in ancient times there was no clear distinction between priest and physician.
- Humans have always sought ways to alter everyday consciousness. This is usually achieved either through changes in normal behavior, or by ingesting a consciousness-altering substance.
- We "civilized" typesdescendants of the primitive Native Americans' conquerorshave a strong bias that religious experiences should be obtained through altered action rather than sacramental ingestion. Prayer, fasting, penance, and personal sacrifice are all acceptable forms of achieving greater connection with God and Spirit. Ingesting chemicals, sacramental plants, or other consciousness-altering substances is not.
- What we are aware of and that we are aware at all is due to a complex biochemical-electrical process in the human nervous system. A slight alteration creates a shift in consciousness. Any number of stimuli can trigger the chemical-electrical shift that leads to the change in consciousness.
- All the "acceptable" techniques for achieving religious experiences involve chemical change. Prayer is changing one's focusaltering what one is thinking. Fasting causes a significant biochemical change. Even the "born again" experience as practiced by many churches is based on psychological pressure ("You are a sinner and you will spend all eternity in hell") and release ("Accept Jesus and you will spend all eternity in paradise"), which produces profound biochemical change.
- When we have a shift in consciousness, our belief determines whether or not the shift is perceived as a religious experience. If we connect a certain positive feeling with God, each time we have that feeling we think of God. If we attach that same pleasant feeling to our spouse, each time we feel that feeling, we will think of our spouse. If we attach the same feeling to our favorite television program, each time we feel that feeling, we will think of our favorite television program, and so on.
It is well for people who think to change their minds occasionally in order to keep them clean. For those who do not think, it is best at least to rearrange their prejudices once in a while.
- A change of consciousness is an experience. If we choose to give that experience religious meaning, it becomes a religious experience. If we choose to associate it with someone we are in love with, it becomes a romantic experience. If we choose to associate it with our favorite television show, it becomes a video experience. We could even choose to associate it with something wicked and evil ("This is the devil tempting me" or "I'm having a psychotic episode"), and the same experience becomes a negative one.
It takes very little chemical change to bring about a profound shift in consciousness. LSD, for example, is not measured in milligrams, or thousandths of a gram, but in microgramsmillionths of a gram. As few as 25 microgramsthat is, twenty-five millionths of a gramcan bring about a profound change in consciousness that lasts many hours. After Dr. Albert Hofmann accidentally ingested LSD on April 16, 1943, he described his experiences :
- I was seized with a feeling of great restlessness and mild dizziness. At home, I lay down and sank into a not unpleasant delirium, which was characterized by extremely excited fantasies. In a semiconscious state, with my eyes closed (I felt the daylight to be unpleasantly dazzling), fantastic visions of extraordinary realness and with an intense kaleidoscopic play of colors. After about two hours this condition disappeared.
Every happening, great and small, is a parable whereby God speaks to us, and the art of life is to get the message.
- Note that there's not much talk about God in there. In fact, at first psychiatrists thought the LSD experience closely resembled the delirium of extreme schizophrenia and explained, perhaps, the paintings of Vincent van Gogh. He was not interpreting those swirling sunflowers and "turbulent indigo" (Joni Mitchell's phrase) skieshe was painting what he saw. LSD, it was thought, should be taken by therapists to better understand the working of the schizophrenic mind, or by architects so that they might better design mental institutions to be healing and comforting places from an "insane" person's point of view.
- Others thought LSD would be useful in therapy because it produced such a pronounced shift from ordinary consciousness. If insane people could be sufficiently jarred from their insanityeven for a brief period of timeperhaps their reality could be restructured, through therapy, into a healthier pattern.
- Still otherssuch as author Aldous Huxley and Harvard professors Timothy Leary and Richard Alpertthought that LSD opened the "doors of perception" (as Huxley called it) through which human consciousness could glimpse mystical visions. They maintain that LSD opened the consciousness through which all the great spiritual teachersMoses, Buddha, Zoroaster, Krishna, Jesus, Mohammed, and othershad their insights and revelations.
- Some thought LSD produced psychoses; others thought it produced enlightenment. How people approached the experience significantly influenced the results of the experience.
- Those who took LSD thinking it was going to simulate schizophrenia left the LSD experience thinking, "Oh, that's what it's like to be crazy." Many who took LSD expecting mystical revelation got mystical revelation.
- In the 1960s and early 1970s, hundreds of thousandsperhaps millionsaccepted the Huxley-Leary-Alpert interpretation of LSD and, for the most part, had experiences they would describe as spiritual.
Not a shred of evidence exists in favor of the idea that life is serious.
- The "set and setting" was vitally important. The set was the mind-set: One had to ask oneself, "Am I taking part in this experience for kicks or for illumination?" The latter was recommended. The setting was the environment in which you took LSD, whom you were taking it with, what physical activities were planned: music, silence, readings aloud from the New Testament or the Tibetan Book of the Dead. In properly planned sessions one had a guide who had had the experience before, to provide safety, support, and encouragement.
- Less than ten years later, by the mid-1970s, people were "dropping acid" on the way to the disco. "The Bee Gees! Jesus!" the psychedelic old-timers would lament. "What happened to the Beatles? And why are they going to a disco? If they want to go out, why don't they go to a real religious experiencelike seeing 2001: A Space Odyssey in Cinerama?"
- Soon "acid" became synonymous with any orally ingested consciousness-altering substance: tranquilizers, strychnine, it didn't matter. People were looking for a "trip," not a journey; a "high," not a higher state of consciousness.
- Some of the original "mystical" LSD takers went on to explore God in more traditional ways: LSD was advertised as only one door to the house of perception; how you moved in was up to you. Richard Alpert took an ancient route, went to India, and became Ram Dass. Timothy Leary took the techno route and became fascinated with space travel, computers, and cyberspace. Whatever the outcome, LSD was a bright flash between the black and white '50s and the technicolor '70s. What people did with that flash was and is entirely up to them.
WOMAN: Thank you for saving the world! HENRY KISSINGER: You're welcome.
- Throughout history, humans have sought the tree of life. People have tried to "return to the garden" by ingesting substances from the plant, mineral, and animal kingdoms. Some worked; most didn't.
- Alas, in our country today sincere seekers cannot seek in this way. They are entitled to use the traditional methods as much as they pleasebut only those tried and accepted by "our Judeo-Christian forefathers." People can pray, fast, join a monastery or convent, become missionaries, and that's okay. Changing consciousness through external actions that produce internal chemical reactions is acceptable. Ingesting chemicals is not. If you do, you are not taking part in a sacrament, but committing a sacrilege. You will be punished for it not only in the hereafter, but here.
- We'll explore further the absurdity of jailing people for religious beliefs in the chapter, "Unconventional Religious Practices." The point of this chapter is: although ingesting chemicals may not be part of the Judeo-Christian tradition, it certainly has a long and dignified history in the human tradition. To deny Americansnative or immigrantthe right to explore chemical sacraments is not only an interference with our religious freedom, but yet another example of imposing Judeo-Christian religious beliefs on others by force of law.
- An understandably quiet movement of sincere, well-educated ("they have more degrees than a protractor," comments the Los Angeles Times) individuals is exploring anew the value of psychedelics. Today the "mind expanding" chemicals are often referred to as empathogens (empathy producing) or entheogens (become one with theos, God). Andshock and joythe FDA is giving begrudging approval to limited research.
If you surveyed a hundred typical middle-aged Americans, I bet you'd find that only two of them could tell you their blood types, but every last one of them would know the theme song from "The Beverly Hillbillies."
- "We're like early man who says fire is too dangerous," says Rick Doblin, Harvard-trained social scientist and spokesperson for the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies. "We're not even at the stage where we've figured out that fire can keep you warm in winter." MAPS is a nonprofit group that tracks the handful of approved psychedelic research projects throughout the United States.
- The preliminary research has been encouraging, especially when empathetic chemicals are used in conjunction with the therapeutic process. "Psychotherapy is enhanced by an altered-state experience," said Charles S. Grob, M.D., one of the lead researchers of MDMA ("ecstasy") use in therapy. In other studies, using chemicals such as MDMA, MDA, and LSD has resulted in significant progress treating recidivism, sexual dysfunction, depression, and addiction, among many others.
- Of course, even these token research programs are under fire and, by the time you read this, may have been halted altogether by ignorance and misplaced grief. One of the primary organizations challenging any research is Drug Watch International. This was formed by Dr. William Bennett (not the former Drug Czar turned bestselling pontiff on morality, but another onehow many can we take?) and his wife, Sandra, after "losing our son to cocaine in 1986."
They hated me without reason.
- This sort of kill-the-messenger response was echoed by actor Carrol O'Connor, who, in his grief following the suicide of his son, blamed it all on his son's drug dealer, who was promptly arrested. The fact that O'Connor's son killed himself after being out of work for a year and after spending his third wedding anniversary alone was not mentioned. (The dealer was sentenced to a year in prison.)
- How does one explain to a parent grieving for a lost child that putting other parents' children in prison is not the solution? No one, apparently, has found the way to communicate this to the Bennetts. "Illicit drugs are illicit because they're harmful," they claim in circular, ignorance-perpetuating logic.
- In fact, research has shown drugs in general and psychedelics in particular to be far less harmful than formerly feared. In 1995, UCLA's Ronald K. Siegel, one of the few researchers permitted to perform scientific studies on LSD after the blanket governmental ban in 1970, reported,
Dangers [of psychedelics] are not as great as the public was led to believe in the '60's. Risks of brain damage and schizophrenia have been discounted. Most psychedelics are stimulants, and like any stimulant, they can be harmful to those with high blood pressure and heart conditions.
- Meanwhile, a much larger group of individualistsjust as sincere but lacking governmental sanctionexplore their psyches, their world, their loved ones, their lives, and their God with entheogens. For many, LSD, due to its sometimes tedious "electric" qualities, has been replaced with psilocybin ("mushrooms"), MDMA, and MDA.
Instant gratification takes too long.
- MDMA was first synthesized in 1912. In the early 1980s, it was rediscovered and named ecstasy. "I wanted to call it empathy," its rediscoverer said, "but I thought ecstasy would sell better." It didperhaps too much better. It was banned in 1986, when after enthusiastic articles in (among other publications) The Wall Street Journal, Time, and Newsweeka bureaucrat in Washington decided it should be banned.
- MDA, a naturally occurring chemical with empathetic effects similar to MDMA, is found in more than seventy plants as well the human brain. When the chemicals the body produces to suppress the effects of MDA are suppressed, small doses of MDA can produce powerful results. "The heart opens," one psychiatrist explained in nonpsychiatric terms.
- While MDMA is still illegal, the plants containing MDA are not. (Think they'll ever get around to banning nutmeg, green tea, or the kola nut?) These plants are sold by various companies working entirely within the law.
- For the most part, these enthogens are taken not as a high, but as a sacramenta sacrament not to meant placate a vengeful God "out there," but to celebrate the essence of God within us all. From the standpoint of some Christians, who believe this life is to be suffered through and pleasure should only be found in paradise, it seems the pagans have returned again, their "Devil's Mass" in tow.
- For the Glory of God, they must be forbidden to practice such hedonistic sacrileges so. If they do, they must be punished. Severely. Here on earth. Now.
The big thieves hang the little ones.
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Copyright © 1996 Peter McWilliams & Prelude Press